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September 30th, 2009 11:57 am
What’s Reconciliation?
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The common refrain in the Senate is that a bill needs 60 votes (3/5 of the Senate) to pass.   Otherwise, a dedicated cadre of 41 Senators can continue debate on a bill forever, thus killing its legislative prospects.

However, during a process known as budget reconciliation, the Senate is allowed to pass legislation directly related to taxing and spending with only a majority (51 votes) needed.  Thus, as Harry Reid has already pledged, a government-takeover of health care could pass, even with unanimous GOP objection and with several Democratic defectors.

Opponents of a government takeover do have several arrows in their quiver.  Under the “Byrd Rule,” a Senator can make a budget point of order and rule that a certain piece of legislation is not germane to the budget reconciliation process.  It takes 60 votes to overcome a budget point of order.  Thus, any health care bill passed during the reconciliation process would likely emerge from the Senate as a smelly piece of Swiss Cheese, not pie-in-the-sky universal health care.

In case you wanted to know more, MSNBC’s First Read has a great primer on reconciliation.

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